Questioning legacy of Sheffield’s Tour de France - one year on

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One year ago today, a sea of spectators lined the streets of Sheffield to welcome the world’s most watched sporting event to their doorsteps.

Colourful crowds totalling 380,000 people embraced the spirit of the Tour de France as it travelled through the city on July 6, 2014, and it was watched across the globe, with the local economic benefit estimated at least £11 million.

NSST 6-7-14 Bradfield 13'Tour De France comes to Bradfield

NSST 6-7-14 Bradfield 13'Tour De France comes to Bradfield

But 12 months later, what is the legacy of the Grand Départ in Sheffield?

Cycling projects in the pipeline include the roll-out of a bike loan hub - similar to the Boris Bikes of London - this autumn.

Sheffield Council is to recognise the Tour route with £15,000 of celebratory street art and markers while this weekend there will be a packed schedule of anniversary events.

Matt Turner, chairman of Cycle Sheffield, said he believed the legacy was a rise in the number of people trying the sport for leisure.

Riders on Jenkin Road

Riders on Jenkin Road

But council decisions were still affecting everyday cycling negatively, such as not including a separate cycle lane in the Grey to Green scheme to rejuvenate Castlegate and awkward crossings, including roads used during the Tour.

Matt, of Hillsborough, said: “I understand cycling clubs have seen more members - there has definitely been an increase in the number of people cycling for sport. That’s the legacy at the moment.

“But the same can’t be said of people using cycling to get around the city. Still too many people think it is not safe to cycle.”

Of £11,000 on-street bike pumps installed by the council, he added: “The reason people don’t cycle is not because there isn’t a pump on the street.”

Matt said work needed to be done to stop ‘conflict’ between road users and that not enough had changed for the council to meet its target of 10 per cent of all journeys being made by bike by 2025.

Currently, 1.7 per cent of all journeys are on cycles, but just 0.8 per cent of them involve commuting to work, so reaching the milestone will be a challenge.

Sheffield’s many hills are also a barrier to cycling, and passengers face difficulties trying to take bikes on public transport.

Standard bikes are not allowed on board trams, and although a trial is underway in Edinburgh, Stagecoach Supertram says the idea is still ‘under review’.

However, bosses believe ‘safety concerns’ from limited space and multiple entrances on trams outweigh the benefits to a ‘small number of people.’

There are also calls for more safety measures around tramlines, which can prove hazardous to cyclists. More than 120 bike accidents on tram tracks have been reported to CycleSheffield.

Meanwhile more women are taking up cycling - and its profile is also rising - said Marc Etches from Sheffrec Cycling Club.

The organiser of the Sheffield Grand Prix race this month said the general population was more aware of cycling as a sport, rather than just an environmentally friendly form of transport.

Marc said: “The big surge began with the Olympics and when Bradley Wiggins won the Tour – it’s been increasing since then.

“We will have around 100 entries in the regional race of the Sheffield Grand Prix which is the highest in four years.

“There are more ladies riding, we have about 12 female members now which was unheard of years ago.

“I come past Hunters Bar every day and there used to be a couple of people riding to work. Now there are streams of them. Whether they were inspired by the Tour or just want to get to work remains to be seen.

“I think people do acknowledge cycling a little more now – they see it as a sport as well.”

The night before last year’s Tour most hotels across Sheffield were full with visitors - and twice as busy on the Sunday.

Welcome to Yorkshire says anecdotal evidence suggests there has been a rise in tourism although official figures are not yet available.

Ian Slater, chairman of Hospitality Sheffield and manager of the Metropolitan Hotel, said: “It’s definitely benefited the region.

“We have seen many more people coming at the weekends so they can go off and cycle in the Peak District or on part of the Tour route.

“Last Friday we had a group of 20 in to do a charity cycle race. We still have the bike rack that we put in for the Tour because it is well used.”

Coun Isobel Bowler, cabinet member for neighbourhoods at the council, said the Tour had played a role in the International Adventure Conference coming to Sheffield in September, as well as helping to secure a new partner for the city’s half marathon and drawing up a new, more scenic route.

On a wider level it boosted an ambition to be the country’s best city for outdoors recreation and showcased the city.

She added: “The Tour chimed beautifully with that. When we were looking for a new operator for the half marathon I think it encouraged a wide range of people to come forward. People also got into the idea of going out and watching the Tour, and that was repeated at the marathon – there wasn’t one bit of the race that spectators weren’t at.

“If we hadn’t had the Tour, I don’t think Sheffield Hallam University would be supporting the Grand Prix as it wouldn’t have registered on their radar.

“It has raised all our aspirations.”

Council officers have visited Amsterdam - hailed globally for its street design and cycling takeup - to look at how its success could be replicated in Sheffield.

Figures from a survey last autumn showed 7,160 people were commuting by bike on that day, up from 6,609 in 2013. Ten years ago, in 2005 the figure was 4,877, or 0.5 per cent of all journeys.

Coun Bowler - who is a cyclist - said training schemes were helping more people to take to two wheels.

She added: “Sheffield is a great place to cycle. We are working within our constraints to improve things all the time with a range of measures.

“Unfortunately it does take time and some of the things we would like to do we haven’t got control over.”